Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a type of lung condition that is caused by the formation of scar tissue inside your lungs. The scarring tends to worsen over a period of time and it is also irreversible, meaning that no amount of treatment can help cure the scarring. As the scarring progresses, it makes it more difficult for the person to breathe and also prevents adequate levels of oxygen from reaching the bloodstream. There is no cure for Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but there are many treatments that can help you manage your symptoms. Furthermore, the earlier the condition gets diagnosed, the faster you can start your treatment. But can early treatment really help with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis?

Can Early Treatment Help with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a rare type of lung disease that causes the lung tissues to become scarred and stiff. Over a period of time, this scarring becomes worse and makes it more difficult to breathe. There is no cure for IPF, but new drugs are known to significantly slow down the rate of decline and also help in improving the overall quality of life. It is absolutely critical that your condition is detected at an early stage. Early treatment is important to stop the progression of the disease at a rapid pace.

Why is Early Treatment Necessary for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis?

Starting the Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatment as early as possible is important because the time frame can make a whole lot of difference in slowing down the progression of the disease. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive disease, meaning that your symptoms will worsen over time. As there is no cure for the Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the scarring cannot be reversed or even removed.

The best option you have to improve your quality of life with Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is to get early treatment to manage your symptoms and also slow down the progression of the disease.

Some of these early treatment options include:

Newer and More Advanced Medications. Many new drug options are now available that help slows down the rate of lung scarring. These medications are extremely important because lung scarring in Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is irreversible. Therefore, slowing down the rate of lung scarring will automatically help slow down the progression of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved two new drugs for the treatment of IPF in 2014 - pirfenidone (brand name: Esbriet) and nintedanib (brand name: Ofev). While these medications do not cure Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, but both of them prevent the progression of lung scarring and also slows down the progression of the disease. Clinical trials done with both these drugs have shown that they significantly slow down the decline in lung function. Studies have shown that nintedanib gives relatively better results as compared to pirfenidone.

Exercise. Increasing your muscle mass is known to better your survival time. Exercising helps you not only increase your muscle mass but also maintain it at a certain level.
Supplemental physical and oxygen therapy - Supplemental physical and oxygen therapy is known to help improve lung capacity and lung function. This can further help you manage the symptoms of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and have a better quality of life. In this, a small portable oxygen tank is provided to additionally supply oxygen to the body, making it easier to breathe. This is a good option for those who are physically active. This also prevents any right-sided heart problems that may be caused due to low oxygen levels in the bloodstream.

Lung transplant. Not many people opt to have a lung transplant as an early form of treatment. Usually, it is the last consideration. However, a lung transplant will substantially prolong your life. The younger you are, the better qualified you are for a transplant. This is not to say, though, that Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis will not return. Keep in mind that there are many risks attached to a lung transplant. Data shows that Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is one of the leading causes of a lung transplant in the US and accounts for more than half of the transplants performed during 2013.

GERD treatment. Most people suffering from IPF are also known to have GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Taking medication for GERD is known to reduce scarring of your lungs and prolong your survival time.

Pulmonary rehabilitation. This is a program that helps people cope with their condition and aims to improve the quality of life. The program involves stress reduction, increasing your knowledge about IPF, and teaches you breathing exercises. Exercise training is known to improve lung function significantly.

Experimental treatments. There are many new and advanced treatments available for treating IPF. You can apply to several clinical trials that are searching for ways to prevent, treat, and diagnose lung diseases such as Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Other Options That Can Be Used For Early Treatment of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

Apart from the above mentioned medical options for treating and managing Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis symptoms, there are certain things you can do to help you manage your condition and have a better quality of life with IPF. The earlier into the diagnosis you start these lifestyle changes, the better chances you will have of slowing the progression of the disease. These lifestyle treatment options include:

  • If you are a smoker, you need to quit immediately. Smoking has a direct correlation to making IPF worse. In fact, smoking is also known to be one of the causes of Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight takes the 'load' of your lungs. If you are overweight, then all the extra weight makes it difficult to breathe.
  • Do not ignore your flu shots and pneumonia vaccinations. Both pneumonia and influenza are extremely detrimental to people having IPF.
  • If you suffer from sleep apnea or GERD, then getting treatment for them is recommended as these two conditions are generally present in a majority of IPF patients. Take your vitamins and mineral supplements as prescribed or recommended by your doctor.
  • Keep monitoring your oxygen levels at home.

It is recommended that you join an Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis support group. There are many support groups available for IPF patients. These support groups can help make a huge difference to the quality of your life and outlook.

Conclusion

An early treatment for Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis can help patients stay ahead of the disease and slow down the progression of the disease significantly. While there is no cure for IPF at present, there are many treatments out there that are beneficial in managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life. These early treatment options range from new drugs, medical interventions, to lifestyle changes. If you suspect that you may be having some lung condition, it is best to approach your doctor at the earliest so that the issue gets identified and diagnosed at an early stage itself.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: September 18, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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